Trump reportedly ‘ordered’ John Kelly to grant son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance — despite previously saying he was ‘never involved’
President Donald Trump ordered former White House chief of staff John Kelly to grant a top-secret security clearance to Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser and the president’s son-in-law, people briefed on a contemporaneous memo told The New York Times in a report published Thursday.
Kushner, who possessed an interim top-secret clearance until February 2018, received a lower class of clearance after Kelly conducted a review.
Kushner reportedly raised the issue with Trump, who pushed officials to approve his son-in-law’s top-secret clearance. Around May 2018, Trump ordered Kelly to grant Kushner the security clearance, The Times reported.
According to the report, Kelly wrote a contemporaneous memo about how he believed he had been “ordered” to approve of Kushner’s security clearance despite having reservations.
Don McGahn, who was White House counsel at the time, also had concerns about allowing Kushner to access top-secret intelligence and wrote a memo recommending Kushner be denied one.
As president, Trump has the legal basis to grant a security clearance. If the White House personnel security office finds discrepancies in the FBI’s background check, the White House counsel weighs in and makes the determination.
But Trump previously denied having used his clout to influence the process. In an interview with The Times last month, Trump said he was “never involved with the security” and did not “want to get involved in that stuff.”
Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s attorney, also suggested Kushner “underwent the normal process” to obtain his clearance in 2018. A spokesman for Lowell reaffirmed that Kushner went through the normal procedure for approval.
“In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone,” Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, told The Times on Thursday. “That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”
Kushner’s security clearance has been scrutinized by Democratic lawmakers and security experts. Many said that his mere presence in the White House was a sign of nepotism and that his access to top-secret intelligence could be a breach of national security. Two White House security experts previously deemed his security-clearance application “unfavorable” because of potential influence from foreign entities, according to an NBC report in January.
Kushner made more than one hundred errors on his SF-86, an extensive security-clearance application that lists foreign contacts and other pertinent travel information. The National Background Investigations Bureau chief said he had never seen a form with the number of omissions that Kushner’s had.
“I have never seen that level of mistakes,” NBIB director Charles Phalen said in a House subcommittee meeting in February 2018.
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